Staying calm in the face of crisis

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By Rebecca Kapolnek

Just three short weeks ago, I was getting ready to embark on a spring break journey to Panama City Beach. My hotel was booked, travel plans were set and a to-do list was made. In addition, three weeks ago I wrote a column stressing the importance of being safe during this hectic time of year.

Throughout that column, I implored students to realize that they are not invincible and explained that they needed to stay smart while in an unfamiliar area. When spring break was all said and done, I realized first-hand that, no matter how safe you think you are being, bad things can and will still happen. Sometimes just using what you think is common sense is not enough, and one quick, rash decision can change things for the worse.

During my week in Panama City, I was faced with many unsafe situations, ranging from getting separated from my friends in a 7,000 person capacity bar (note that Joe’s has a 400 person capacity) to getting followed by a group of locals when I was walking back to my hotel. However, nothing I encountered could compare to what happened my last day in Panama City.

While participating in the usual beach day festivities, my group staked out a spot on the beach and joined the fun. This day in particular, I had my fanny pack around my waist carrying my phone, debit card, license, school ID, medicine and room key because I had gotten lunch with a friend directly before hitting the beach. Upon arriving, I put the fanny pack in the pile of other belongings, and 20 minutes later, it was gone. All of my most personal belongings were stolen while I was within five feet of them.

Of course, after the incident I was beating myself up about bringing all my belongings to the beach. After all, bringing valuables at the beach was one of the number one things I was told not to do when I went to Panama City. I did not follow my own advice and thought after six days of nothing happening I would be just fine for one more day. I did my best to be careful and safe, but my best just was not good enough.

After dealing with beach cops, police reports, a trip to the DMV and throwing away hundreds of dollars on a new phone, I came to the realization that no matter how careful I was on vacation, these things still could have happened. While I do not feel hypocritical for having something happen to me so quickly after ranting about being safe, I am using this experience as a learning opportunity for the future.

After the initial shock of the crisis, instead of feeling bad for myself and moping around my hotel for the rest of the night, I used it as an opportunity to expand on my problem solving and people skills. Dealing with the police and credit card companies on my own ended up teaching me a lot about being an independent adult, and I now know how to deal with things like this in the future. A situation like this was completely out of my control. Since there was nothing I could have done to get my stuff back, I needed to work solely on picking up the pieces.

Things happen.

In the end, we are not judged by the misfortunes that happen to us, but by how we choose to handle what is thrown our way. No matter how safe we feel we are being, bad things still happen because there are people in the world who do not have others’ best interests at heart.

I believe in karma and strongly believe that whoever stole my belongings that day on the beach will have something coming their way eventually. But in the end, I am not choosing to look at it that way. I gained some valuable life skills from the experience, and I now know to never, ever let anything valuable leave my sight, even for just one minute.

Of all the unsafe situations I could have been in on spring break, I am going to consider myself lucky. I did not come back with a serious sunburn, drinking ticket, disease or injury. Instead, I came back without a cell phone or wallet and with some new lessons learned.

As I sit here and try to get the pieces of my life back together over the next few days, I will not be dwelling on the past but focusing on how I can do my best to prevent something like this from happening in the future. Spring break taught me that I am a lot more grown-up than I originally thought, and my situation proved this even further.

Rebecca is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]